Shell curriculum fuels hundreds of schools

10th September 2010 at 01:00
Global approach wins adherents, though critics say it's too crude

A privately developed curriculum designed for multinational oil giant Shell has been adopted by 1,000 schools.

Lypiatt Primary School in Wiltshire has become the latest to adopt the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), which uses themed teaching and was originally developed for the 15 English and Dutch-speaking international schools run by the conglomerate.

The IPC is one of only a handful of independently developed curricula. The only other that had reached national recognition is the Opening Minds initiative by the RSA.

Each school spends about #163;10,000 to sign up to the IPC and then #163;1,000 a year subscription.

The curriculum is used in 65 countries - including Malaysia, Qatar and Japan. England now has 727 schools using the IPC compared with 150 three years ago.

Lypiatt primary's headteacher, Carolyn Atkins, said that she had decided to adopt the IPC after speaking to another head who had introduced it.

"We were looking for ways to regenerate our curriculum and I had a document from Wiltshire about the IPC so I contacted someone who was already using the IPC and (they were) so passionate about it that I couldn't help but get hooked.

The school is based inside an Army base and is the only school in the country that serves Forces families who need temporary accommodation following separation, bereavement, discharge from the services or other welfare-related reasons. Children only attend the school for short periods - between one week to three months. It was rated good with outstanding features by Ofsted in 2009, but inspectors mentioned pupils needed more understanding of the different cultures and communities in Britain today.

"I believe that it (the curriculum) will foster an increased awareness among pupils that they are part of a global community," Ms Atkins said.

The IPC became increasingly popular in England in 2003 after the Labour government published a strategy encouraging schools to be more creative with the curriculum.

As it took off, Ofsted praised some schools which used the curriculum, and in 2009, when Hampstead Norreys CofE School in West Berkshire came top of the league tables, headteacher Alex Butler said the IPC was key to her pupils' success.

But it has not been without its critics. One teacher on the TES Connect forum said that it was being expensive, loosely planned and particularly unsuitable for key stage 1 children.


The IPC chocolate unit is one of more than 80 different thematic units of work, others include Time Detectives, Airports and I'm Alive.

Each unit, including chocolate, incorporates subjects including history, geography, ICT, art and science.

In history, for example, children explore the discovery of chocolate, the motivation for discovery and changing attitudes to chocolate through the ages.

In geography, they look at the countries that grow cacao, how its production has affected them, and they consider fair trade. In art, children look at how packaging is designed. In science, children consider how long it takes to burn off calories.

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